Mary Marcus: Waiting For Mumbai

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Maybe my washing machine was just fed up with all the loads it has been churning out during the recent rodent crises—maybe (and this really freaks me out) the mice ate something vital—I shimmied myself between the shelf above the washing machine and the machine itself, poked my head behind and saw, yes, more mouse shit. I’ve yet to figure out how to get behind there. I guess I’ll drop a trap there, perhaps with a fishing pole.


This morning when I was running the first load of the day, at 7 a.m. right after I came in from walking Henry, a terrible noise erupted from the machine. Think of the biggest imbalance noise with ten pairs of sneakers and multiply that by ten and you’ll have an idea of the noise that I heard coming from the machine. Like the invasion of Afghanistan. I turned it off, opened the door and smoke was billowing out, and the terrible stench of burnt rubber filled my nostrils.

That was the good part.

The bad part is Sears Customer Service. And the home repair phone queue, where a computer has just told me that they now have a brand new computer that understands full sentences. Naturally, the sophisticated computer did not understand my carefully modulated sentence. So, now I’m in the all too familiar hell of being in line with the call volume “unusually high.” And the computer voice telling me over and over that if I visit them online I’ll have better results.

Why oh why am I in every phone queue with unusually high call volume? I’ll tell you why… Because there are not enough outsourced phone representatives, even in Mumbai or Manila where that’s a good job and “big company” doesn’t have to pay living wage, never mind benefits. I will go even farther and speculate that no one responsible for foisting this dishonest, unethical way of doing business with its customers has ever had to wait through a call line; blood pressure rising, nerves tingling with hatred, kicking and shrieking. Or had to endure being put on hold where one is hounded every five seconds with the reminder that “your business is very important to us.” Never mind, the horrible spirit-crushing background musak. Musak. Perhaps that was the real beginning of the end. A portent no one recognized.

Having visited India some years ago, I have nothing but pity for the poor men and women who have to politely put up with being yelled at by Americans day in and day out. Does anybody do anything BUT yell at the souls who politely and firmly read from their scripts and listen as we shriek at them? And who must by the standards of their country consider themselves not only lucky but also privileged.

I haven’t visited the Philippines but I’m sure I would feel the same: pity for the people. And guilt when I shriek at them.

Yet what am I to do?

I’m holding for Mumbai, as I type this. It’s been now forty minutes. And when someone finally gets on, it’s going to be ugly. I’m going to yell, and the individual at the other end is going to calmly, implacably read from the script.

We are all so inured to the whole corrupt system where we know that if something breaks, the best thing to do is throw it out and buy another cheap-shit-badly-made replacement and the sooner the better.

Anything, anything is better than being on hold waiting for Mumbai, or wherever it is that I’m calling.


Mary Marcus is the author of The New Me and the critically acclaimed, Lavina. Visit her website for more.

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On December 18, 2015
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